Letter to Alice no. 32
March 17th, 2015
I just had you alone with me for a week straight during your spring break from preschool, and it’s my first moment without you in seven days. I thought that this break would be really stressful for me—taking you to work, having you there until 7pm each day, trying to keep you occupied—but it was nothing but lovely every day. You drew pictures and painted. You did puzzles and took naps on the fluffy wool rugs in my office. You walked to and from work with me every day in our neighborhood, musing aloud about the other people on the sidewalk and the customers we would see today.
You also made your own leap into entrepreneurship for the first time and set up a lemonade stand for two days on the sidewalk outside the shop. We brought lemonade mix and a cute pitcher from home, and you sat at a card table decorated with your Great-Great-Grandma Edna’s old tablecloths and your plastic cash register you got for Christmas. You worked best when I left you alone—it’s easier to sell without your mom looking over your shoulder, I think. I heard you outside yelling “Free lemonade! Free cold lemonade!” and I’m sure all the other people on the block who were trying to work heard you too. Once I had to send Grandpa (who came from Blair to buy a glass) to the grocery store to buy more supplies. Though the lemonade was free, you made $34.27 in tips on the busiest intersection in Dundee, all safely stored in your cash register.
You love doing “inventory,” walking around with a clipboard and notepad tallying all of the clothing in the shop by size. You had different columns for each size, XS-4X, and an elaborate system of marks, checks, and squiggles to report data that you understood perfectly.
Besides all the fun we had at work, you were also so wonderful at home. You made your bed every day, and learned how to pour your own cereal without spilling. We went swimming at the gym, and you tread water in the 5-foot and swam all on your own back to the shallow end where you could stand because you are SO determined and brave. Today we ate breakfast sitting on the windowsill with our legs out, and you helped by taking all the cushions outside to beat the dust out of them. I mopped, and you washed the windows. When it’s just the two of us, there’s a lot to do, and I expected some tantrums, some arguing, some tears over the past week, but there were none.
It’s never all work, of course. I just wanted to talk more about that because I was so impressed with your focus and attitude.
You seem to know yourself—you’re dry, but funny. Logical and curious like your dad, ambitious and easily frustrated like me. You love your stuffed pomeranian dog, Boo, who comes everywhere with you. You typed “why dont u do it? pak boo” on my laptop as I was packing for a trip, which turned “pak boo” and “why don’t you do it” into a recurring meme with my friends instantly. I find lots of notes from you on my laptop, and lots of pictures from you on my phone, and every time I find them it makes my day.
Above all, art might be your favorite thing. You love museums and art books. You’re very critical of art you don’t like, which is anything with scribbles. You get really impatient with yourself as you draw sometimes, because you want everything to look perfectly realistic. You give up on paintings in frustration, and then come back to them later to turn them into something else or try again. Everywhere we go, you will be fine if I bring you a notepad and pen. You can sit forever as long as you can draw something. The recent addition of a clipboard to the back seat pocket in the car sweetens the deal ever more. An adult recently asked you, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” When you took a while to answer, I said you wanted to be an artist. You quickly corrected me with a scowl—“No! I already AM an artist!!! I WANT to be a dolphin trainer.”
I miss you every day I’m not with you. I don’t think I’m supposed to say that I miss you, but that “we’ll be together again soon,” or something—something positive instead of sad. I’ve read parenting books that say that. But sometimes I think your absence must be what strengthens our love, because that’s when I think about you so much that I find all these great ideas in my imagination about things we can do and places we can go and new experiences I’d like to give you. Life with you is so fun, and during spring break we did everything we wanted to do.
As I look back over the letters I’ve written you in the past, I feel like there’s a theme of reassurance, joy, and calm in the gifts you give me as your mother. You seem to always make my life easier exactly when I need it most. My heart is always yours, and it will always be yours, in every world, in every life, in every drawing you make, in every dream you have.